Thursday, May 31, 2007

Plenty of jobs for proofreaders

Because you can't spell-check a banner:

Ironically, the final round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee is tonight.
Dude, you're getting a slip!
Caveat blogger

A Massachusetts doctor learns the hard way not to blog about work. From the Boston Globe: "Blogger unmasked, court case upended"

It was a Perry Mason moment updated for the Internet age.

As Ivy League-educated pediatrician Robert P. Lindeman sat on the stand in Suffolk Superior Court this month, defending himself in a malpractice suit involving the death of a 12-year-old patient, the opposing counsel startled him with a question.

Who was Lindeman Flea?

Flea, jurors in the case didn't know, was the screen name for a blogger who had written often and at length about a trial remarkably similar to the one that was going on in the courtroom that day.

In his blog, Flea had ridiculed the plaintiff's case and the plaintiff's lawyer. He had revealed the defense strategy. He had accused members of the jury of dozing.With the jury looking on in puzzlement, Lindeman admitted that he was, in fact, Flea.

The next morning, on May 15, he agreed to pay what members of Boston's tight-knit legal community describe as a substantial settlement -- case closed.
Don't bother heading over to Dr. Flea Blog - it's been wiped cleaner than a surgery room floor.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Allegiances in question - Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe on that Pew survey on American Muslims: "In the Pew survey, only 8 percent of American Muslims said terrorism in the name of Islam is often or sometimes justifiable. But 8 percent of 2.3 million Muslims is 184,000 people who support suicide bombings and beheadings in at least some instances. That is not a trivial threat. And it cannot be effectively suppressed unless the moderate Muslim mainstream actively repudiates and anathematizes Islamist ideas."
He looks familiar - Great list of "hey, it's that guy" from movies and TV (HT: Ace)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hey kids, can Gramps borrow a half-million dollars?

From USA Today: "Rules hiding trillions in debt - Liability $516,348 per U.S. household"

Modern accounting requires that corporations, state governments and local governments count expenses immediately when a transaction occurs, even if the payment will be made later.

The federal government does not follow the rule, so promises for Social Security and Medicare don't show up when the government reports its financial condition.

Bottom line: Taxpayers are now on the hook for a record $59.1 trillion in liabilities, a 2.3% increase from 2006. That amount is equal to $516,348 for every U.S. household. By comparison, U.S. households owe an average of $112,043 for mortgages, car loans, credit cards and all other debt combined.
It's the new math! According to the federal government, if you lend yourself money you've doubled your assets because you have 1.) the cash and 2.) the I.O.U. to yourself. And if you wonder why I agitate over this issue so much, here's why:

This hidden debt is the amount taxpayers would have to pay immediately to cover government's financial obligations. Like a mortgage, it will cost more to repay the debt over time. Every U.S. household would have to pay about $31,000 a year to do so in 75 years.
How can we possibly continue with this accounting fiction?

The White House and the Congressional Budget Office oppose the change, arguing that the programs are not true liabilities because the government can cancel or cut them.
Ha ha ha!!!! Oh, heavens.

More - Great minds (like me and Bulldog Pundit) think alike.
Teamster-free Yuengling - Workers at America's oldest brewery voluntarily decide to de-certify the Teamsters union after the boss says "read between the lines." (HT: Fark)
Seek help, Cindy

I stopped blogging about Cindy Sheehan after hearing this interview on NPR (transcript here). Host Neil Conan had the temerity to ask Sheehan about her son Casey and the conditions whereupon he joined - and re-enlisted - in the Army. In response, Sheehan becomes irritated and curt before cutting off the interview short, leaving an incredulous Conan hanging on the line.

But then Cindy Sheehan's movement was always about Cindy Sheehan:

But no, she's not, not an attention whore, and it's never been all about her. Which is why she uses the personal pronouns "I" and "me" no less than 59 times in her little blog post. Her one 'moment of clarity' seems to exhibit itself in her choice of title for this regurgitation.
Once the media backed away from Sheehan's cuddle sessions with Hugo Chavez and her lengthening list of Leftist causes, there was no use in carrying on. Seek professional help, Cindy, you're free now.

Extra - From Rick Moran: "Mother Sheehan, goddess of peace, ascends to heaven"
From the "When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail" file - CNN headline: "Obama would tax wealthy to pay for universal health care" Of course.
Picture of the day - A white tiger swimming. Cute!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

The Sentinel's Creed:

My dedication to this sacred duty is total and wholehearted.
In the responsibility bestowed on me never will I falter.
And with dignity and perseverance my standard will remain perfection.
Through the years of diligence and praise and the discomfort of the elements,
I will walk my tour in humble reverence to the best of my ability.
It is he who commands the respect I protect.
His bravery that made us so proud.
Surrounded by well meaning crowds by day alone in the thoughtful peace of night,
this soldier will in honored glory rest under my eternal vigilance.
Arlington Cemetery - Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Sunday, May 27, 2007

It gets better! - The 2007 NASCAR season has been smoldering bore because Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon have won nearly every race, leaving little room for drivers beyond the elite. But tonight's Coca-Cola 600 almost made up for it: Casey Mears captured his first Nextel Cup win, J.J. Yeley in second place had his best finish ever, and Kyle Petty in third had his first top five win in a decade.
It gets worse

Have I mentioned that Social Security is an awful Ponzi scheme? In today's Boston Globe, business writer Scott Burns explains how future retirees will receive less but will be taxed more:

In 1983, a presidential commission recommended that Social Security benefits be taxed. The recommendation became law in 1984. At the time, few retirees were affected because benefits were only to be taxed when other sources of income were quite high. With the initial income level set at $25,000 for a single return and $32,000 for a joint return, it was expected that only 1 percent of beneficiaries would pay anything .

But there was a catch. The income levels weren't indexed to inflation. As inflation and economic growth increased the level of benefits for future retirees, more retirees would pay the tax.
When taxes are geared to capture "only the rich" (think alternative minimum tax), eventually the dragnet hits everybody.
Hang up and drive

Have you ever seen that Allstate commercial where Dennis Haysbert warns us about those distracted motorists who, among other things, change their pants while driving? I called "bull" when I saw that spot, convinced that nobody could be so irresponsible.

I stand corrected. From today's Boston Globe: "Behind the wheel, on the phone, styling hair..."

Just last week, State Police Lieutenant James A. Jones noticed a man trying to pull his dress shirt over his head, then continuing a wardrobe change, all while driving on Route 24. "I was about to turn on my blue lights when he stands up," Jones said. "He's taking off his pants."
On my long commute, I thought I'd seen it all.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Star Wars + 30 - Here's some chick from the G4 channel wearing Princess Leia's slave bikini. What sartorial quality of that outfit drives men wild? Who cares.

Below - The Friends episode "The one with the Princess Leia fantasy"

Extra - From Wired: "The cult of Leia's metal bikini"

More - You really can find anything on the Internet: "Leia's Metal Bikini"
The entitlement elephant in the room

I was visiting Mom over the past couple days, so let's just roll out another Social Security article for now:

This important matter -- far more important than the promises -- is to fix Social Security. Here's a program absolutely vital in the lives of tens of millions, a program that is explicitly the responsibility of these congressional malingerers and a program that is in such a bad way financially that there won't be enough revenues to finance all the benefits just a decade out.

Do nothing about it, and along with Medicare it will eventually swallow the budget whole. Wait to act until the crisis is at hand, and the options will all be ghastly tricks on a trusting public.
Jay Ambrose writes that the Democratic Congress has done "nothing" which is unfair because they've passed 26 laws since the election dealing with very important matters.

Update - Slight correction: Congress has now passed 27 laws.
Burning that good Venezuelan gas - Gas-guzzling SUVs choke the parking lot at the Marin Civic Center where the well-heeled Left gathered to hear Al Gore say stuff.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

No dough for Hasbro - The credit card companies win another round in their relentless effort to eradicate cash. The classic game of "Life" will replace play money with a Visa credit card that will automatically add up your charges. No more banker, no more math, and no wonder people can't make change without a calculator.
When repo men attack - "With Simeone still on the hood, Bradley drove to the Abington police station, where the brothers were arrested and the car was repossessed."
Worst in history, redux

Jeff Jacoby piles on:

The fruits of Carter's spinelessness, says scholar Steven Hayward, have been bitter. The fall of Iran, he observes, "set in motion the advance of radical Islam and the rise of terrorism that culminated in Sept. 11." By doing nothing to prevent the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Carter invited an evil from which grew the jihadist violence that is such a menace today.
"Nothing?" What about boycotting the Moscow Olympics? That show'd em!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Send in the clowns - Let's see, the Democrats haven't passed a single one of their legislative goals, they're backtracking on Iraq funding, and they can't advance their promised ethics reforms especially with John Murtha shenanigans. The base must be thrilled.
More surprising quotes from Democrats

First that Eugene McCarthy quote and now here's former Senator Bob Kerrey with "The Left's Iraq muddle":

American liberals need to face these truths: The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it. Al Qaeda in particular has targeted for abduction and murder those who are essential to a functioning democracy: school teachers, aid workers, private contractors working to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure, police officers and anyone who cooperates with the Iraqi government. Much of Iraq's middle class has fled the country in fear.

With these facts on the scales, what does your conscience tell you to do? If the answer is nothing, that it is not our responsibility or that this is all about oil, then no wonder today we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power. American lawmakers who are watching public opinion tell them to move away from Iraq as quickly as possible should remember this: Concessions will not work with either al Qaeda or other foreign fighters who will not rest until they have killed or driven into exile the last remaining Iraqi who favors democracy.
Suddenly Joe Lieberman isn't so lonely anymore.
Worst president ever

It used to be an unwritten rule that ex-Presidents refrained from criticizing current administrations. But Jimmy Carter couldn't keep quiet, prompting this backlash from Christopher Hitchens on Slate: "The latest absurdities to emerge from Jimmy Carter's big, smug mouth"

"Worst in history," as the great statesman from Georgia has to know, has been the title for which he has himself been actively contending since 1976. I once had quite an argument with the late Sen. Eugene McCarthy, who maintained adamantly that it had been right for him to vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980 for no other reason. "Mr. Carter," he said, "quite simply abdicated the whole responsibility of the presidency while in office. He left the nation at the mercy of its enemies at home and abroad. He was the worst president we ever had."
Eugene McCarthy said that? And here Hitchens details how Carter's foreign policy action was worse than his inaction:

It was he who had created the conditions for the Gulf crisis in the first place - initially by fawning on the shah of Iran and then, when that option collapsed, by encouraging Saddam Hussein to invade Iran and by "tilting" American policy to his side. If I had done such a thing, I would take very good care to be modest when discussions of Middle Eastern crises came up. But here's the thing about self-righteous, born-again demagogues: Nothing they ever do, or did, can be attributed to anything but the very highest motives.
Anything else?

It was because, whether in Afghanistan, Iran, or Iraq - still the source of so many of our woes - the Carter administration could not tell a friend from an enemy. His combination of naivete and cynicism - from open-mouthed shock at Leonid Brezhnev's occupation of Afghanistan to underhanded support for Saddam in his unsleeping campaign of megalomania - had terrible consequences that are with us still. It's hardly an exaggeration to say that every administration since has had to deal with the chaotic legacy of Carter's mind-boggling cowardice and incompetence.
Damn. In retrospect, it was hardly a surprise that the Iranian hostages were released after 444 days in captivity. After all, a new President was coming in - a cowboy - and the Ayatollah had no way of knowing how America's new leadership would respond to this lingering international embarrassment. With Carter, there was no need for such concern.

Extra - From Bloomberg: "Carter Takes the Prize Among the Worst Presidents"

Monday, May 21, 2007

Tehran trembles at Grandma

From the WashPost - "American Scholar Is Charged in Iran - Tehran Accuses Her Of Seeking to Topple Ruling Establishment":

In a separate statement, Iran's intelligence ministry alleged that the 67-year-old grandmother, director of the Middle East program at the Smithsonian's Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, was involved in activities trying to foment a soft revolution.
Presumably with comfy throw pillows and home-baked chocolate chip cookies.
The rich taking from the poor

USA Today confirms much of what I've been saying for years: government entitlement programs are overwhelmingly tilted towards the affluent elderly at the expense of the working young. From "Generation Gap? About $200,000"

The growing divide between the rich and poor in America is more generation gap than class conflict, according to a USA TODAY analysis of federal government data. The rich are getting richer, but what's received little attention is who these rich people are. Overwhelmingly, they're older folks.

Nearly all additional wealth created in the USA since 1989 has gone to people 55 and older, according to Federal Reserve data. Wealth has doubled since 1989 in households headed by older Americans.

Not so for younger Americans. Households headed by people in their 20s, 30s and 40s have barely kept up with inflation or have fallen behind since 1989. People 35 to 50 actually have lost wealth since 1989 after adjusting for inflation, Fed data show.
And yet we dare not touch a federal program formed in 1935, two months after Babe Ruth retired from baseball.

The implications are far-reaching and can turn conventional wisdom on its head. Social Security and Medicare increasingly are functioning as a transfer of money from less affluent young people to much wealthier older people.

Because the older generation hasn't set aside enough money to cover promised government benefits, young people will have to make up the difference or older people will face benefit cuts. The financial shortfalls of Social Security and Medicare over the next 75 years are so large - $340,000 per household - that they dwarf the wealth of every age group. This hidden debt will make it a challenge for young people to accumulate as much wealth late in life as their parents have.
Translation: the economic disparity will only widen as more government resources are poured into Medicare and Social Security. The discretionary portion of the federal budget currently stands at 38% of all outlays. Every year that goes by without entitlement reform means that mandatory spending will force down all that spending we call the "government." Soon all that will be left is interest on the federal debt, Social Security, Medicare, and some Homeland Security walkie-talkies.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

It's going to be awkward at Sunday dinner with Mom - Kyle Busch wrecked his brother Kurt Busch during the NASCAR All-Star Challenge tonight. Quipped Kurt: "I won't be eating any Kelloggs any time soon."
Be very afraid - From the Economist: "The smart money is on Hillary Clinton to win the White House in 2008"
Jenny is 45 now - Via the Boston Globe, two companies are fighting over the rights to the telephone number 867-5309. You know, from the song.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Countdown - From 100 to 1 in movie quotes, via Ace. There could be no other choice for "eleven."
Brilliant writing - I think tonight's episode of "The Office" was the funniest hour on television ever. Ryan's coup de grace at the end? Priceless.
Best headline ever

From the Motley Fool: "Social Security is for suckers"

America's Social Security system is on exceptionally shaky footing. Don't just take my word for it. Based on data from the Social Security Administration, it will:

- Begin paying out more than it takes in as revenues in 2017.
- Exhaust its "trust fund" in 2041.
- Require $4.7 trillion in extra revenue to pay estimated benefits for the next 75 years.

Sound like a program that will meet the retirement needs of anyone from Generation X or beyond? Didn't think so. Even if further tax hikes, economic growth, or benefit changes keep the system somewhat solvent, the fact is that it was never much of a retirement plan to begin with. Based on the most recently available data, the average Social Security benefit received by a retiree's family is $1,097.95 per month -- $13,175.40 per year. That's less than a full-time, minimum-wage job in some states.
And why not hold a minimum-wage job, Grandpa? Social Security was started in part because the elderly couldn't perform the physical labor (e.g. farming, mining) of Depression-era jobs. Now everything is computers and telephones.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"The customer can have any color he wants so long as it's black" - Henry Ford

"You can worship any religion you want, as long as it's Islam. Or we'll kill you." - The Religion of Peace
Fight like a Russian?

Noted professor Bernard Lewis fears the U.S. will start to slide into old habits in the war against terrorism. From Opinion Journal: "Was Osama right? Islamists always believed the U.S. was weak. Recent political trends won't change their view"

During the Cold War, two things came to be known and generally recognized in the Middle East concerning the two rival superpowers. If you did anything to annoy the Russians, punishment would be swift and dire. If you said or did anything against the Americans, not only would there be no punishment; there might even be some possibility of reward, as the usual anxious procession of diplomats and politicians, journalists and scholars and miscellaneous others came with their usual pleading inquiries: "What have we done to offend you? What can we do to put it right?"

A few examples may suffice. During the troubles in Lebanon in the 1970s and '80s, there were many attacks on American installations and individuals--notably the attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, followed by a prompt withdrawal, and a whole series of kidnappings of Americans, both official and private, as well as of Europeans. There was only one attack on Soviet citizens, when one diplomat was killed and several others kidnapped. The Soviet response through their local agents was swift, and directed against the family of the leader of the kidnappers. The kidnapped Russians were promptly released, and after that there were no attacks on Soviet citizens or installations throughout the period of the Lebanese troubles.
IIRC, one of Osama Bin Laden's propaganda tapes alleged that the Americans wouldn't fight back because we didn't have the stomach to commit ground troops and he cited high-altitude bombing of Bosnia as proof. The reaction to 9/11 was a miscalculation:

Stage One of the jihad was to drive the infidels from the lands of Islam; Stage Two--to bring the war into the enemy camp, and the attacks of 9/11 were clearly intended to be the opening salvo of this stage. The response to 9/11, so completely out of accord with previous American practice, came as a shock, and it is noteworthy that there has been no successful attack on American soil since then. The U.S. actions in Afghanistan and in Iraq indicated that there had been a major change in the U.S., and that some revision of their assessment, and of the policies based on that assessment, was necessary.

More recent developments, and notably the public discourse inside the U.S., are persuading increasing numbers of Islamist radicals that their first assessment was correct after all, and that they need only to press a little harder to achieve final victory. It is not yet clear whether they are right or wrong in this view. If they are right, the consequences--both for Islam and for America--will be deep, wide and lasting.
If the war in Iraq is intolerable to some (nobody really complains about Afghanistan) then we need to ask whether we're willing to accept periodic terrorist attacks on civilian and military targets (e.g. USS Cole). The conflict remains either way.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

No blogging energy

Even before the demands of work and school eating up my time, I just can't muster any enthusiasm on the issues of the day. First of all, I can't believe we're actually having Presidential debates for an election a year-and-a-half away. The current President has decided that he's lost credibility as "Commander in Chief" so he's invented the "war czar." And I don't think there's any glee to be found in the fact that Congress's approval rating is lower than Bush's. The wheels are coming off our democracy and absolutely nothing is getting accomplished.

Nobody cares about entitlement reform. Zimbabwe continues to sink into the abyss. The Justice department is in disarray. Those four abducted soldiers in Iraq are almost certainly dead. Iran is firing up their uranium centrifuges while the IAEA looks hurt and ineffective.

What's good? Well, the stock market is up. Fred Thompson made me laugh. And Max Boot has a good article on Opinion Journal evincing hope for the Iraqi surge:

Slow progress toward an acceptable modus vivendi may still be possible as long as the U.S. doesn't insist on artificial timetables to resolve complex and emotional issues. What incentive do Iraqi politicians have to make compromises if they think that American troops are heading out the door? If that's the case, Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds would be well advised to avoid making any concessions that would strengthen their mortal enemies. Thus all the talk in Washington about troop withdrawals has the opposite effect from what is intended. Instead of spurring Iraqi politicians to compromise, it leads them to be more obdurate.

It's still possible to stave off catastrophic defeat in Iraq. But the only way to do it is to give Gen. Petraeus and his troops more time--at least another year--to try to change the dynamics on the ground. The surge strategy may be a long shot but every alternative is even worse.
Well, I have a take-home exam to do this week, so excuse me if blogging is light. Please, scattered readers and wayward Google searchers, check out some of the blogs to the left to fill your content needs.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Your vanishing retirement benefit

From CNN - "Shrinking Social Security - A new report says Social Security will replace less of your income than it did before, thanks to taxes, Medicare and the reality of hitting your 60's":

Over the next 25 years, NASI [National Academy of Social Insurance] says, the amount of pre-retirement income replaced by Social Security is expected to fall for a number of reasons:

More retirees will have to pay income tax on their Social Security benefits. In 1983, lawmakers decided retirees whose total income was at least $25,000 (or $32,000 for those filing jointly) would have to pay income tax on a portion of their benefits. Those income levels are not adjusted for inflation.

Also, while Social Security payments are adjusted for cost of living every year, Medicare premiums, which are paid out of your Social Security check, have been rising faster than inflation.

Finally for those born in 1960 and beyond, the retirement age is 67 - the age when new retirees would be eligible for full Social Security benefits. So if a worker has to retire earlier and start collecting benefits - as many do - that will reduce his monthly paycheck.
Youngsters, pay heed:

For those in their 20's, 30's and 40's, you can bank on this: whatever changes are decided, you'll either end up paying more for the benefits promised or you'll receive less of them, or, possibly, both.
What a great program! Thank heaven they made it mandatory otherwise people might have the temerity to save their own money.
You can't spell "Big Dig debacle" without "AIG" - From Fox News: "The workers' compensation insurance carrier for the Big Dig construction project has agreed to pay $58.5 million for excess profits it failed to return to the state, the state attorney general said Monday. American International Group Inc.'s settlement includes $26 million in losses to the state, with the rest in interest. The money will be returned to the Big Dig, which at nearly $15 billion is the most expensive construction project in U.S. history." And counting!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Only at University - Where "hurt feelings" will always triumph over the uncomfortable license of "free speech."
Sunday morning lineup - It's the attack of the RINOs with John McCain, Chuck Hagel, and Rudy Giuliani. All will probably praise Ronald Reagan at some point. Brooke Shields appears on This Week. Huh?
Hugo Chavez: "Down with the American empire!"

America: "OK, we'll buy our oil elsewhere."

Hugo Chavez: "Whoa, whoa! Hey, don't do that!"
Dix kid nixes za biz

From CNN: "Fort Dix arrest slices father's business"

The father of one of the six men charged with plotting to massacre soldiers at Fort Dix says the business that he's nurtured near the base for years is all but ruined since his son's arrest.

Muslim Tatar, who has owned Super Mario's Pizza for five years, said his lunchtime crowd from nearby McGuire Air Force Base and Fort Dix has largely disappeared, replaced by empty tables and nasty words from passing motorists.

"Now I am a target," Tatar, 52, said, adding that his business is "99 percent dead."
Cry me a river, Muslim.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Not a good idea - Mort Kondracke sez: "Kill 'em all and let Allah sort 'em out."
Quote of the Day - Here's Los Angeles principal Frank Wells on what he really needs at his failing high school:

"The more you fail, the more money they throw at you," he said. "We're filthy rich; I don't want any more of your money. Send me quality teachers."
Found via Betsy who has much more on the state of education reform.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Zimbabwe + the U.N. = irony overload

From the UK Telegraph: "Zimbabwe set for U.N. environment post"

African countries sparked outrage yesterday after they nominated President Robert Mugabe's regime for the leadership of a United Nations body charged with protecting the environment and promoting development.

Zimbabwe, which is enduring economic collapse and environmental degradation, could become chairman of the UN's Commission on Sustainable Development when a formal vote of its 53 members takes place today.
Well, if you hate modern technology, you'll love the Zimbabwe model:

Zimbabwe's economy is collapsing, with inflation of 2,200 per cent - the highest in the world. Households can expect just four hours of electricity a day. This has encouraged deforestation, with large areas being stripped of wood for light and heating. Mr Nhema, 48, benefited from Mr Mugabe's wholesale seizure of white-owned land. The minister, who was educated at Strathclyde University, was handed Nyamanda farm near Karoi, a once thriving enterprise producing tobacco and maize. Most of its 2,500 acres are now lying idle.
That makes it easier to sustain.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Junior breaks free - From USA Today: "Rampant speculation Wednesday night had Junior set to announce he was leaving Dale Earnhardt Inc., the company founded by his late father and the only team he's ever driven for, to field his own Nextel Cup team."

Extra - all but confirms the rumors. Goodbye DEI, hello JR.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Geek heaven - From MIT Technology Review, a panel chose the most "iconic pieces of technology" from the first automatic Polaroid camera (1972) to the Atari 2600 (1977) to the NeXT OS (1988) which looks suspiciously like Microsoft's Vista. (Hat tip: Pajamas Media).
Close the borders - That seems to be the majority sentiment among the (sometimes nasty) comments attached to the story: "Six arrested in plot to kill soldiers at Fort Dix."

Update (5/9) - From Fox News: "Brothers Charged in Terror Plot Lived Illegally in U.S. for 23 Years": "Three brothers charged in the alleged Fort Dix terror plot have been living illegally in the U.S. for more than 23 years and were accepted as Americans by neighbors and friends who had no idea they would scheme to attack military bases and slaughter GIs."

Monday, May 07, 2007

No time for the pain

Today's must-read is by Michael Barone on "Prioritizing our problems"

Sometimes politicians get things upside down. They ignore problems that are plainly staring them in the face, while they focus on dangers that are at best speculative.

Consider two long-range issues that are not pressing matters this year but pose, or are said to pose, threats a generation or two away. One of them you don't hear much about: Social Security. The other you hear about all the time: global warming. Yet this gets things upside down. We have an unusually precise knowledge of the problems that Social Security will cause in the future. But we don't know with anything like precision what a continuation of the current mild increase in temperatures will mean.
Politicians love to be green because it's an accessible, feel-good religion to so many Americans that doesn't require any real sacrifice. But Social Security reform requires sacrifice now and later, therefore it's best to leave the problem to future legislatures:

The politicians resist fixing Social Security because the short-term costs are well understood by voters and the long-term benefits, while clear to actuaries, are invisible to voters because no one is decrying them with religious intensity. The politicians sprint to address global warming because the short-term costs are unknown to voters and the long-term benefits, while unclear in the extreme to those who rely on science, are portrayed in apocalyptic terms by the prophet Al Gore. Democracy isn't perfect.
That's just pouring salt in the wound, Barone, by mentioning Al Gore and the defects of democracy. Ouch.
The liberal freak-out - John Hawkins has a mini-interview with Angela McGlowen of "Bamboozled."
Not dead enough

Joseph Farah on World Net Daily: "Where's Bin Laden?"

According to my calendar, just four months from now we will be marking the sixth anniversary of the biggest terrorist attack in history and the worst attack of any kind on American soil.

The mastermind of and inspiration for that attack is Osama bin Laden.

Yet, he still has not been captured or killed.

If there is one man in this world I do not want to see die of natural causes, it is bin Laden. And I think most Americans would agree with that.
Our "ally" Pakistan has been useless in the search for Bin Laden, but we dare not upset the only Muslim nation with a nuclear bomb.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Amazing Race finale - Hooray, it's over

This might be the first TAR finale that's only an hour long, a merciful coda to this interminable season. We're down to the final three teams: Dustin & Kandace, Eric & Danielle, and Charla & Mirna; I'll just be happy if Mirna loses. Everybody starts out in Guam and connects through Tokyo on the way to Honolulu, Hawaii. Charla & Mirna snag an earlier connection to Hawaii, arriving 40 minutes earlier than the other two teams, who are greatly disturbed by the fact that the Annoying Armenians are not on their flight. Once in Honolulu, it's a dash to the Kanaka Air Hanger where teams sign up for helicopter rides leaving ten minutes apart. So it's practically a forced bunch-up.

The copters arrive at Lanai and teams grab a jeep for a drive to find a man with a ceremonial costume. It's the Detour: Under or Over. Teams may either take a boat to an underwater cave or paddle a surfboard while standing up. Charla & Mirna do the surfboard while Eric & Danielle scuba-dive into the cave; the former finish first and head to Shipwreck Beach and the next clue. Dustin & Kandace are bringing up the rear.

At Shipwreck Beach, teams must walk over some rocks along the beach and tiny Charla can't navigate very quickly causing Mirna to hyperventilate. Teams must take a two-person kayak out to the WWII shipwreck and get the next clue. The waves are particularly strong and everybody has a lot of trouble paddling against the force. Of course, the young Eric & Danielle get the clue first while the two all-female teams struggle. (Not being sexist, it's just true.) The next clue directs teams to the final destination: San Francisco.

There's only one flight to Oakland so all the nonsense thus far this episode means nothing. Once in San Francisco, teams race to the Old Mint in taxis. Interesting twist: one team member must go into the vault and answer opinion questions about other teams (e.g. "who is the least trustworthy") then the other team member must try to match their partner's answers to open a vault. Danielle matches Eric's answers and grabs the next clue: head to the Botanical Gardens.

This task is limited to ten minutes after which teams are just handed the clue. What? No penalty or anything? The Blondies get their clue only a couple of minutes after Eric & Danielle so there's no point to this other than to manufacture a dramatic finish. Mirna shows her taxi driver a map so he can find the Gardens. Danielle is a wreck.

Here they come: it's Eric & Danielle! The Blondies are next and it's a tearful finish for Dustin & Kandace in true beauty queen fashion. Charla & Mirna arrive to scattered applause. C'est fini.

Final results:

#1 - Eric & Danielle - WINNERS of the Amazing Race All-Stars
#2 - Dustin & Kandace
#3 - Charla & Mirna

Extra - Be sure to head over to Brainster to see Pat's review of tonight's finale.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The hardwood Commodore 64 keyboard

I subscribe to only two magazines - Wired and The Atlantic - because in any given issue there will be a story on (respectively) some technical or socio-political sub-culture. This month's Atlantic has an outstanding article about the world of counter-scammers, guys who "bait" all those "Nigerian oil ministers" and "deposed princes" trying to separate you from your money.

The article focuses mainly on the efforts of and its founder Mike Berry who managed to turn the tables on a scammer by convince him to compete for a fictional art scholarship. The poor sucker carved a magnificent replica of a Commodore 64 keyboard which now sits in the 419 trophy room. Brilliant.

By the way, you must read everything ever written by Atlantic contributor William Langewiesche.
Do the patriotic thing: drive an SUV

From the WSJ: "Fuel-Efficient Cars Dent States' Road Budgets"

Cars and trucks are getting more fuel-efficient, and that's good news for drivers. But it's a headache for state highway officials, who depend on gasoline taxes to build and maintain roads.

The Federal Highway Administration estimates that by 2009 the tax receipts that make up most of the federal highway trust fund will be $21 billion shy of what's needed just to maintain existing roads, much less build new roads or add capacity. Trying to compensate for highway-budget shortfalls, a handful of states are exploring other, potentially more lucrative ways to raise highway money.
George Will has written about how the federal and state governments are so dependent on cigarette tax revenues that the fabric of government would unravel if people suddenly stopped smoking. This is the legacy of a continuous mad-grab for taxes and the unexpected consequences when people change their behavior (unfortunately?) for the better.
But what about all the subpoenas? That's something, the subpoenas

From the WashPost: "Democrats' momentum is stalling"

In the heady opening weeks of the 110th Congress, the Democrats' domestic agenda appeared to be flying through the Capitol: Homeland security upgrades, a higher minimum wage and student loan interest rate cuts all passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

But now that initial progress has foundered as Washington policymakers have been consumed with the debate over the Iraq war. Not a single priority on the Democrats' agenda has been enacted, and some in the party are growing nervous that the "do nothing" tag they slapped on Republicans last year could come back to haunt them.
Nevertheless, thank heaven they caught Alberto Gonzales mis-stating why he fired eight district attorneys. Remember back when the Attorney General wouldn't survive the week? Good times...good times.

Extra - From Rightwing Nuthouse: "Dems to voters: 'We were only kidding'"

Friday, May 04, 2007

See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet - Americans really love their automobiles, so will they be open to paying an extra $1/gallon of gas to combat global warming?

Uh, no.
Is Paris burning? - Couldn't have happened to a ditzier heiress: "Paris Hilton sentenced to 45 days in jail"
A demographic implosion in Japan

I know I write a lot about the looming problems with entitlement spending in the face of an aging population. But, believe it or not, the crisis in America is going to pale in comparison to Europe and Japan. Europe is going down the tubes because of socialist policies and lavish public benefits that nobody wants to cut. But Japan is facing a demographic challenge because of a low birth rate, which means fewer workers to support an aging population. Now from Japan Today (hat tip to Free Republic) comes this troubling portent of things to come:

The number of children below 15 in the nation came to 17.38 million as of April 1 for the 26th straight year of decline, accounting for a record-low 13.6% of the population, according to an internal affairs ministry population estimate released Friday.
Here's a BBC story from two years ago:

The decline in Japan's birth rate is so severe they have invented a word for it - 'shoshika', meaning a society without children.

Unless women here start having more babies, the population in Japan is expected to shrink more than 20% by the middle of this century. Nearly half would be elderly, placing impossible burdens on the health and pension systems.
Ironically, one of the things that may save America's bacon when it comes to entitlement spending is a large influx of immigrants who are leaving Europe and Asia to escape oppressive tax rates.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

It was Elmer's glue - From the Boston Globe "Big Dig job may have used wrong epoxy": "Contractors apparently used the wrong adhesive to install at least some of the bolts in a Big Dig tunnel ceiling that partially collapsed last summer, project records show, prompting criminal investigators to focus on whether the mix-up was a significant factor in the accident that killed a Jamaica Plain woman."

Here's a little reminder of your tax dollars at work: "The Big Dig is the most expensive highway project in America. Although the project was estimated at $2.8 billion in 1985, over $14.6 billion had been spent in federal and state tax dollars as of 2006."
Too busy to blog - Work, school, home, chores, the dog wants a does Glenn Reynolds do it?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Hair today, bomb tomorrow

Iranian president Dinner Jacket just isn't happy unless he can outlaw something every day. Today, it's "Western-style haircuts" whatever that means.
Snazzy - Matt Hoy has had the interior decorators re-do his blog, just in time for May Day: "President Bush will veto the bill shortly and then the Democrats can get back to work. I think it tells you something about what the Democrat Congress is all about that the first and only law they’ve passed in four months of control of Congress is a defeat-and-retreat funding bill." Can that be right? Not even a minimum wage bill? Huh.
Transcript of President Bush's speech - From the White House: "President Bush Rejects Artificial Deadline, Vetoes Iraq War Supplemental" Multiple links from all sides of the political spectrum at (where else?) Memeorandum.
Knowledge gap

Lawrence Kaplan puts it bluntly in the New Republic: "Congressional leaders are illiterate on Iraq"

Maybe it was a slip of the tongue. But, when Nancy Pelosi confessed last year that she felt "sad" about President Bush's claims that Al Qaeda operates in Iraq, she seemed to be disputing what every American soldier in Iraq, every Al Qaeda operative, and anyone who reads a newspaper already knew to be true.
Hat tip and more background from Gateway Pundit.
Oliver Stone, call your office!

Just in time for President Bush's highly visible veto of Congress's Iraq bill comes this good news:

The leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq has reportedly been killed in a firefight today.

Abu Ayyub al-Masri died in an "internal battle" between militants near a bridge in northern Baghdad, the Iraqi interior ministry said.

If true, the death would represent a huge blow for the Islamic fundamentalist organisation. The United States had regarded al-Masri as the number one threat to the stability of Iraq, and placed a $5 million bounty on his head.
What a coincidence! Rev up those conspiracy machines, kidz.

Extra - From the GMTA dept.: "If al-Masri is dead, how long can it take for Rove-planned-it for a veto-backdrop story theories?"